Partial Transcript: Megan Lee Myklegard: Hello, this is Megan Lee Myklegard it's June 9th, 2015 we
are in 413 Major Williams Hall and I'm with Michelle Oshinski. Would you like to
Michelle Oshinski: Uh yeah I'm Michelle Oshinski I go by Miki, I was born in
Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 29th, 1991.
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Alright, so lets start at the beginning. Can you tell us about your
parents, how you were raised, where your from, just kind of give us the whole story?
OSHINSKI: Well, we moved around a lot my dad worked for ExxonMobil. So while I
was born in Louisiana, a few months later we moved to Texas then to New Jersey
and then to Virginia.
Keywords: family; moving
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] I understand that. So at what point did you become like best
friends with your mom?
OSHINSKI: I think I was about 16 or 17. We found out that I had a large cist on
my ovary, and I had to have surgery. It was very, very scary for me. All
I've ever wanted to be was a parent I wanted to be able to have a baby, raise a
kid, have a family, like that's something I've always wanted to do and knowing
that that was in jeopardy at such a young age was scary.
Keywords: best friend; mom; sick
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: What kind of groups did you have when you were in public school? Like
what would you say your main group was?
OSHINSKI: Rejects. And I mean that in the best way possible because I love all—
I'm still friends with most of them actually.
Keywords: outcasts; popular; school
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Okay, what kind of struggles did you encounter when you were
growing up in terms of your identity and how would you say your friend group
helped out with that?
OSHINSKI: The struggles I faced growing up, I didn't realize I had them. The
first time, I look back now and its so obvious.
Keywords: identity; sexuality; sick; struggle
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] So you mentioned that you didn't have a lot of exposure
to LGBT community in high school, when did you start getting exposure to it?
OSHINSKI: Well in high school there was some. I was never allowed anything at
home like if a girl kissed on TV in my mom's house she'd be like "Oh, that's
Keywords: education; exposure; pansexual; sex
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Has, have how you identified yourself, has it changed over time?
Since like you first got that initial exposure to like now?
OSHINSKI: Definitely. When I was in high school, I assumed I was bisexual. When
I got to college I started falling for this girl transitioning to a guy or she
was going to half transition um, she wasn't gonna, she was gonna get the breast
surgery so the top surgery, but not the bottom surgery.
Keywords: attraction; love; pansexual
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Gotcha. So how did you find out about Transpace and what have your
experiences been while you've been in it?
OSHINSKI: Okay. I took a human sexuality course three semesters ago and my
health was really bad so I was coming in and out of class very infrequently. And
one of the days I was there was when we were having a student panel where you go
up in front, you talk about your sexuality
Keywords: experience; group; Transpace
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] When you got on campus, were you aware of like any other
organizations? And were you involved, or did you think about getting involved in them?
OSHINSKI: I knew that the HokiePride was a group. I didn't think about getting
involved in it.
Keywords: friends; organizations; students
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: You said earlier that you've always kind of felt like you can be
whoever you are, have you felt that way throughout your entire life?
OSHINSKI: Definitely. The one thing [laughs] my parents, though they had a nice
protection bubble, the one thing they always stressed was that we could do
whatever we wanted and that it didn't matter how hard we had to try it didn't
matter how easy it was if we wanted to do it we should strive. And they were
always fully supportive.
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: You say you're self conscious, would you say that being in
Blacksburg, do you feel like it's different than other places you've lived in
terms of how comfortable you feel like being in public?
OSHINSKI: Yes. In Blacksburg I'm significantly more comfortable. If I go around
as a boy, because it's a college campus it's a college town like when I had blue
hair I had this woman, who was probably in her fifties or sixties was like "Oh
your hair is so bright and blue I love it" You know? And I'd be like "Oh, thank
Keywords: acceptance; comfort; open
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: You kinda touched on this a little bit, but how do you feel in terms
of your involvement with social or political movements how do you feel you've
dealt with it in the past and now and in the future how do you think you'll deal
OSHINSKI: In the past I avoided it completely. I tried never to talk about
political things ever because being pro life amongst my friends, especially with
one of the guys I was dating at the time— he was actually Satanic which was
Keywords: opinion; private
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: Have you always known what you wanted to do when you came into
college? You said you were struggling a little bit, but when did you like
OSHINSKI: I finally decided— I think I always knew I was just afraid of it
maybe. Cause being a teacher, you're not gonna make money you're not gonna get
recognition, no one's gonna respect you.
Keywords: career; teacher
Partial Transcript: MYKLEGARD: [laughs] So is there anything you would like potential historians or
like young members of the LGBT community to know? Like would you have any words
of advice? Especially kids coming to Tech.
OSHINSKI: People always tell you to be yourself, to be true to yourself, don't
care about what other people think.
Keywords: accept; future; opinion
TRANSCRIPT: MICHELLE OSHINSKI
Date of Interview: June 9th, 2015 Interviewer: Megan Lee Myklegard Place ofInterview: 413 Major Williams Hall, Virginia Tech Length: 1:11:42 Transcribers: Megan Lee Myklegard
Megan Lee Myklegard: Hello, this is Megan Lee Myklegard it's June 9th, 2015 weare in 413 Major Williams Hall and I'm with Michelle Oshinski. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Michelle Oshinski: Uh yeah I'm Michelle Oshinski I go by Miki, I was born inBaton Rouge, Louisiana on October 29th, 1991.
MYKLEGARD: Alright, so lets start at the beginning. Can you tell us about yourparents, how you were raised, where your from, just kind of give us the whole story?
OSHINSKI: Well, we moved around a lot my dad worked for ExxonMobil. So while Iwas born in Louisiana, a few months later we moved to Texas then to New Jersey and then to Virginia. I have two older brothers, biological brothers,I say that because there were a ton of guys who just kind of lived in our house [laughs] cause they were friends of the family and I just grew up with so many guys that I feel like I have 20 million brothers. But yeah so they're both older than me, my mom and my dad are Catholic my mom converted so that she was very, very religious for a very long time, it made growing up very interesting. Like Halloween— we were never allowed to be anything creepy or slightly terrifying. 1:00She was very against cross-dressing anything like that; she was very strict about it. She has since cooled down, [laughs] which is fantastic because she's my best friend and I'm like finally this is, this is a good relationship. My dad worked a lot, I didn't understand it as a kid I felt kind of sad— I mean I loved my dad we were really close, we still are, but he was never around and I was really confused and I realized, of course, later that "Oh, you were supporting us cause that's a thing that has to be done!" I don't remember much of my childhood to be perfectly honest; I've got some PTSD issues that took away most of that, but what I do remember is a very happy childhood. We struggled with my fathers temper for a little while, he um, he has epilepsy and one of the medications they gave him—they don't warn you about this— but it causes mood 2:00swings, so he was very aggressive and he didn't realize it. But I think when I was like six or seven, maybe a little older, he had this dream and he told us about this a few years ago, he had this dream that child services came and took us away because he was so angry and it terrified him. My mom looked at him and she goes, "If you don't go to therapy and fix this"— she said she'd leave. And that was the scariest thing for him and because of that he like got help and now everything is fantastic. I mean don't get me wrong, we still yell at each other cause we're Irish and Scottish and we argue like crazy people, but um yeah he got help and that was really influential to me to be like "Hey, when you recognize there's a problem, do something about it." Which helped a lot because I had to go into therapy for a long time, but life was really easy. 3:00They had high expectations for us in school, mainly cause they knew we were smart enough. For a long time we always joked, "You never give us positive affirmation! Why don't you tell us we've done good," like you'd get a B and they'd look at us and be like "Why didn't you do the extra credit?" [laughs] we'd be like "Really, that's that's an 80 right there," but like at this point in life they're just happy when we try our best. Yeah, so most of life was just being silly. I was in Catholic school for a little bit and then we moved to Virginia and went to public school, so very difficult transition. I will tell you in Catholic school, like as children people are relatively even. And I was in a really small town too in New Jersey, so like everything was just chill. I was really popular, people thought I was awesome because I was just weird— like I was weird and they loved me. I go to a public school and I'm weird and they hate me like they don't want anything to do with me. That was really traumatic I was like "Oh my gosh I have no friends!" I was that kid that sat on the little bridge of the playground and stared at the wall for recess cause no one played with me. [laughs] Until like fourth grade or something and then I got friends, but I don't know the one thing I'm always proud about is that I never compromised myself to make them like me. It was sad and it was lonely but 4:00somehow I knew not to change. To be like "No this is how I am why would I pretend to be someone else?" I still to this day am like "Why would I do that? This is me and I will be me." So yeah childhood was interesting. My brother Chris, he's the middle brother, he and I were best friends. Of course the teenage years were rocky and now we are best friends again its fantastic cause he's only two years older than me so we're really close. My eldest brother Stefan, he uh was like, I idolized him cause he was five years older and I was like "Oh my gosh look at all the things he can do in video games and look at him doing flips on the playground" like oh my gosh it was the coolest thing and that was it i just idolized him; I wanted to be him. I should've understood at that time was telling me something. [laughs] But, I didn't really get it for awhile. Um yeah it was relatively normal, like people assume something crazy has 5:00to happen for someone to be trans-gendered like a trauma and while yes I had traumas, it wasn't something that I feel triggered it. So my life was really happy and I look back on it now and I'm like "I had a damn good childhood. This is fantastic." And I will call my mom and be like "Mom, thank you. You are wonderful." [laughs] She just laughs at me she thinks I'm the stupidest person sometimes. She's like "I get it okay." Everyone needs reminding. Everybody does. So yeah I don't know it wasn't that eventful as far as I remember.
MYKLEGARD: Okay so you said that you and your father weren't close, do you thinkit was just primarily because he was working so much?
OSHINSKI: Yes um there was a significant period of time maybe two years, like Isaid I don't really remember, where he, we would only see him on the weekends. Because he traveled so much. He, in Exxon, I cant remember exactly what he did but he managed all of the overseas plants. Which is a lot he has been to every continent except Antarctica. He has been to lots of countries. So doing that 6:00took a lot of his time and as a kid I didn't understand why he was gone. I didn't understand that "Oh, his job takes him these places and those places are far away." Like it didn't enter my mind. There was the thing— it bothered me as a kid— that he couldn't tell our stuff apart, like my brothers and I and I realize now most of my stuff was hand-me-downs so that's probably why. But he'd be like "Whose shoes are these?" and I'd be like "Seriously dad those are my shoes, look how tiny they are compared to the other shoes like ehh?" like I just didn't understand that. We had this ritual which was like the best thing in the world, he would come home from work and it was like always in the middle of dinner, I don't know why it was just like perfect timing. And he'd come home and the dog would bark and I'd jump out of my seat and my mom and my dad do this cutest thing and they've done it since they got married he comes home from work and she either meets him at the door or at the sink and she gives him a kiss. Every time. Everyday. And its just the most cute thing ever so what I would do was I would run to the door first, and get outside so I could grab his coffee mugs cause he always brought two like a little one and a big one I don't I still don't know why he always had two I think he just needed that much 7:00coffee. Cause I couldn't carry his suitcase his like briefcase cause it was too heavy cause he had like a computer and a bunch of stuff in there so I'd get the coffee things and I' d run up to the sink and I'd rinse them out and I'd put them in the dishwasher so they were ready for the next morning. And when I got older I would just hand wash them so it was done faster, and I would do that every time. And he would give me a hug after he gave my mom a kiss and it was just like, that was our thing. That's why, even though we weren't super close, we were still close enough that I was like "This is my dad I love my dad I can tell him things." My brothers actually, one of my brothers just talked to me and was like "How are you so close with dad? He was never around like how did you do that?" I looked at him and I was like "Well first of all, I would go to the door everyday when he came home from work if I was home." Second of all when I got older to have like intelligent adult conversations with him, my parents had these like these tiny walk-in closets and so he would go in and close the door and I'd lay on their bed and I'd start talking to him about work while he's was changing into normal clothes. So I had like ten minutes a night of him unpacking his briefcase and like changing into his clothes that I could just like talk to him. And so as I got older we got closer. Which was fantastic but I had to like explain to my brothers "Words, guys. Words, words are useful." 8:00
OSHINSKI: But yeah just as a kid he was gone a lot, I think that was the biggestthing. Um, and and like I said he had a bit of a temper, which was sad, but I mean I don't really blame him. We were probably—we were relatively well-behaved in public not so much at home. We were pretty much hell raisers according to my mom so there's that.
MYKLEGARD: Okay, so how did you feel, you said your parents like transitionedinto Catholicism?
OSHINSKI: Well my mom did yeah, she was Presbyterian after she married my dadand had my first brother Stefan she converted. I always call my brother Stefan their unholy baby cause he wasn't born Catholic. She was a born again Christian, I don't know. My dad was raised Catholic; he has since gotten less religious as the years have gone by. He tries very hard to keep it in his life because it's very important to my mom. Um but yeah I think she was so strict about it, because she didn't— she wasn't raised with Catholicism so she 9:00didn't understand that there was leeway. She thought everything had to be done correctly. And some of the people she hung out with she has since told me were the really strict Catholics that you hear on the news about like "Really, you're upset about that?" She didn't realize until later that "Wait, this is my faith if I choose to not see that as an insult to my faith that's okay." Um, so it was really interesting. We were forced to go to church every Sunday, I say forced because literally it was until you're 18 you will go to church. And then it was until you have a religion you decide to practice you will go to church. But yeah.
MYKLEGARD: How important was that to you in your life? Like how did you feelabout it?
OSHINSKI: As a kid, I really enjoyed it. We did wonderful things like there's somany things for kids to do, and you make friends and you get to know the people and you learn about like Jesus and history and stuff and it was really interesting and I really enjoyed it. When I got older I was still active in some 10:00of the girl's groups. There's this one called Challenge the other one called Encarta. They were really wonderful and most of the girls were really nice and I think its hilarious because they all came from strictly Catholic families, but we were a little more laid back we were like "Ehh its okay. Its okay. Like if you say the lord's name in vein we will not freak out." It was nice to be around people that understood. To this day I don't consider myself a practicing Catholic, but I still consider myself Catholic. I believe most of the things the church teaches, my main thing is like love your neighbor you know hate the sin not the sinner. That good stuff. My biggest problem is with the actual institution of the church. Because we're humans, humans are corruptible, humans make mistakes. Even if you're influenced by the divine you're bound to mess up at some point you just need to be able to accept that. Unfortunately the church cannot, which frustrates me to no end. Not that there aren't wonderful perishes out there. So growing up it was, it was fantastic. Especially while in 11:00Catholic school everyone was on the same page, everyone was really wonderful. Going to public school was weird because there were people who didn't believe in God. And I was like "You can not—what? How can you not believe in God? He's like, he's God, he's right up there!" It blew my mind I was like this second grader and I was just looking at these people like they were crazy like what has just happened, which is probably why they thought I was so weird. I prayed before lunch, you know, breakfast, dinner all the time. Actually got reprimanded once. We weren't supposed to do the sign of the cross in school and I was like "What? It's the sign of the cross." Yeah, but it just always made things very— political things especially—very noticeable to me. My mom raised me as pro-life she's always worried that she started me out too young cause I was like six when she first explained to me what abortion was cause I asked her and she was like "Uhhhhh okay." I was like "That's horrible!" I mean, but like since then you know I've just kinda learned "Okay I disagree with it I can't force my beliefs on other people," but there's like that I remember the big thing about people not wanting to say the pledge of allegiance by saying under God, like one 12:00nation under God, and I was always like why is it that big a deal? Like it was founded in a Christian faith. That's why we're reciting it you don't have to believe in God, but it always made things like that stand out a lot more. Which is interesting here for my friends who never like thought about that who never heard of that and I'm like "Oh yeah cause you didn't, you weren't raised in religion that makes a lot of sense." But its just so weird you know to see "Oh I was raised with this, they weren't, and yet we're both good people. Okay." I don't know. I guess that was the biggest thing that I had to learn was that just cause they don't believe in God or aren't Catholic doesn't make them bad. And that was the hardest transition really.
MYKLEGARD: Have you found that like when you came to college you were sort ofsearching for religious communities or like religious friends that you could talk to?
OSHINSKI: Not so much. At this point in life I just kind of want someone who13:00will understand the philosophy of like be a good person treat other people nicely. I found that in all of my friends, so I don't really need a religious community because my thing is I don't care what your religion is. If you can treat people well and be respectful, that's all that matters to me. You know? So yeah, I thought my mom was really psyched she was like "Oh yeah there's a really great Catholic church you know in Blacksburg you'll be so excited." And I was just like "Not gonna go, but okay." Yeah I never found myself really searching for it. If anything I found myself looking for nerds more than anything else. That was like my, that's my religion: nerd. [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] I understand that. So at what point did you become like bestfriends with your mom?
OSHINSKI: I think I was about 16 or 17. We found out that I had a large cist onmy ovary, and I had to have surgery. It was very, very scary for me. All 14:00I've ever wanted to be was a parent I wanted to be able to have a baby, raise a kid, have a family, like that's something I've always wanted to do and knowing that that was in jeopardy at such a young age was scary. I was like I haven't even, I haven't even been in love like what am I supposed to do with my life like what. It was— it was mind blowing. She was with me the whole thing through that and then I had another surgery and she was there with me through that. Um but what really sealed the deal was when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, shortly after my surgeries, um it explained a lot of my medical issues a lot of the problems I have. And my mom realized she had it as well not as severe, but she still had it and no one else could understand. Because one of the things people don't understand about Lyme disease is the exhaustion like it permeates every cell of your body. It doesn't mater if you slept for 12 hours it doesn't matter if you had energy drinks it doesn't matter how strong you are or how lazy you are the exhaustion it will, it will destroy you. Um, and my family just kept calling me lazy and like "Oh hold the couch down Michelle" and it was like and it was really hurtful and my mom would sit next to me and be like "It's 15:00okay. I'm tired too." And it was inspiring to see her, as exhausted as she was, still get up and you know do the laundry, make us dinner, take us to school or band practice, and that helped me get through it. And it was at that point, cause I was 17, that I was like, "You really are my hero mom. Like you're the best person." And I decided to just stop lying to her about stuff and started telling her the truth and being like "blablabla this is how I'm feeling this day this is what I'm doing, no I didn't take my meds." She'd be like "Take your meds, I'm sorry that you're sad, blablablablabla have some advice." So now we just talk about everything. If I don't talk to her for like two or three days I call her and I'm like "Mom I miss you." And she'll call me and be like "Where have you been?" So yeah probably teenage years, which is funny cause most people that's when they hit like the bad point with their parents, but I had that point like middle school like 13, 14 it was like really bad. Um, but yeah 16:00by the end of high school I was just done with it. I was like "Mom, I'm ready, I'm ready to be friends now. We can do this." So—
MYKLEGARD: What kind of groups did you have when you were in public school? Likewhat would you say your main group was?
OSHINSKI: Rejects. And I mean that in the best way possible because I love all—I'm still friends with most of them actually. Most of them actually came here, and we lived in the same apartments it was kind of hilarious that we still keep together that long and we're still best friends. I say rejects, because we didn't fit anywhere, except for with each other. You know we had the people that— were really intelligent, that just looked weird, we dressed as pirates every single Friday. Like full on costumes, except for hats because they weren't allowed in school and weapons obviously. But full pirate costumes and then we transitioned to steampunk every Friday for like two years. We were nerdy we 17:00loved our video games, we loved role-playing games, but we also wanted to go run outside and hike in the woods and we had one kid that was like super good at programming and we got another person and she just like made candles and soap because she felt like it. I just knitted like a fiend. I still knit, crochet, crosstitch, sew, embroider, like all of it. We were just weird and it wasn't that we couldn't— like we could get along with other people. I got along with quite a few people in my high school, but no one understood being with someone else who was just that quirky and weird and has that strange of tastes is so much better than being with someone who has a normal thing in common. Like "Oh you watch Grey's Anatomy? Me too!" That's not enough for me, though to be honest if I found out someone watched like Supernatural I'd be like "No we're best friends now." Or Star Trek that is my shit Star Trek oh my gosh. Um yeah most people thought we were really strange and really weird, but like whatever. And then I started dating this one guy and I started hanging out with a bunch of like the druggies and the stoners and stuff. I mean to each their own, I never wanted it I was like "Ahhhhh I'd rather not inhale smoke that just seems strange." Um but you know my best friends were the rejects we were just nerdy, and dorky, and weird and we didn't fit with the mathletes and we didn't fit with the hippies we were just like "K, we'll just be these strange people right here in the hallway."
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Okay, what kind of struggles did you encounter when you weregrowing up in terms of your identity and how would you say your friend group helped out with that?
OSHINSKI: The struggles I faced growing up, I didn't realize I had them. Thefirst time, I look back now and its so obvious. The first time I realized that I was different, that I was like gender fluid non-binary— I guess I identify as both I haven't really decided which one fits best— was I was like three or four and my brothers had buzz cuts because we lived in Texas and I was like "Uh mom it's so hot I want a buzz cut." She was like "No you're a girl" and I go "No, 18:00when I'm a boy I want a buzzcut." My mom was like "No, you're a girl you can't be a boy." And it blew my mind it was like "No I'm gonna grow up to be a boy. Like I'm gonna be a boy." That was the first time I realized that "Wait, I can't be a boy. Like what?" It was really difficult having any expression because my parents are very religious and I didn't want to disappoint them; I was afraid they would hate me. On the contrary when I finally did come out to them about my sexuality I had to tell them I was bisexual first because they didn't understand pansexual and so I was like 'We'll start you out slow." I was convinced my mom would like burn me at the stake not because she's evil, but because she's very passionate in her beliefs. She still doesn't agree with homosexuality, but she looked at me and she had that look on her face like "I don't get you, that's kind of gross to me like I don't get it." And the first words out of her mouth was "I still love you." And I wanted to just cry cause I was like "Oh my gosh, that's amazing." But growing up I was too afraid to experience anything I was too afraid to like, what if I wanted to dress as a guy or blablabla and my mom was like "You're just a 19:00tomboy." You know cargo shorts, baggy tee shirts, I only wore sports bras for like the first six years after getting boobs I was like "Nah. Not doing this." Um and it was just hard I didn't realize that it was okay for me to occasionally be a guy. It was okay for me to not have a binary gender like if I just want to be a human being that's cool. The other thing is I just had no exposure to it. I didn't know that, homosexuality— there was more than just gay and lesbian. I didn't know that there were more than just the two: male and female. My parents tried very hard to keep us raised in not quite a bubble, but like a protective area of what they thought was acceptable. While I respect them for trying to protect us, um, it did make things difficult when I was trying to figure out who I was. It made puberty excruciatingly difficult. Um when you get your period and your like, what the fuck is going on with my body? And your mom goes I told you about this. And I was like "No, you said God does this thing and 20:00magicy stuff happens. You did not tell me that this is what was going on." So it was, it was difficult. Um I just tried not to pay attention to it. I guess I was so caught up with trying to get through high school and not be sick all the time that it didn't really hit me until about college. At that point I looked back and realized this is how I've always been. Why have I not been more honest to it? And I was like "Oh, I didn't have the freedom to do it." I finally cut off my hair maybe two or three years ago, I had always had really long hair like the shortest it had ever been was my shoulders it was down to maybe my ribs. I was like all I ever do is wear my hair up, there's no point in having hair so I chopped it all off. It was like really short on one side then swooped down this long beautiful swath and I dyed it blue. And looking into the mirror was the first time in my life I felt beautiful. And it wasn't because I looked masculine it wasn't because I looked feminine it was because I looked exactly the way I wanted to look. And in that moment I realized what all the stuff in my past had meant what wanting a buzzcut, what always wearing my 21:00brothers cargo pants and stealing their clothes, what you know always trying to like get my boobs as flat as possible what it meant. And I was like "Oh, I just wanna be me. I don't want to be defined by male or female." Yeah as a kid I didn't realize— I didn't have the exposure to know there was something else out there, which was hard enough in itself, I know that it in my mind its much harder for the people who know what they want to do but aren't allowed to because you can see it and can't reach it. Where as I was just like "There's something somewhere and I'll find it eventually!" But yeah as a kid it wasn't too difficult I did have body image issues for quite awhile. I really did not like the fact that I had a vagina. I don't know why, like now I'm fine with it. 22:00I'm like "Yeah that's just my body, okay." But when I was like 14 I was like "No this is not right this should not be here." I think it was just part of going through puberty, but it was horrible. Like anytime I'd change my clothes I'd just be so upset. Like I couldn't look in the mirror because I didn't want to see my body. It was weird, but I don't think it was too traumatic because obviously I turned out okay. [laughs] Though not saying that people can't recover from traumatic things because that is definitely possible.
MYKLEGARD: I think I heard you said in the beginning that you went to therapyfor a time, can you talk more about that?
OSHINSKI: Yeah, um I've been in therapy since I was maybe nine or ten I still gosee people on occasion. I was molested when I was a child, and then when I was older I was raped twice. Um so I still have some PTSD from that. Its taking 23:00a long time to get rid of. Process though, progress, it's focus. My mom, she said I had to go see a Catholic psychiatrist, which was very funny because at that point even as a kid I was like "No I don't want to have everything be about God I just wanna know what's wrong and how to fix it like I wanna know how to be happy and telling me God will fix it, or go pray like no! That's not working!" It was very difficult when you're little there's not much they can do anyway it's kind of like let's play with toys and talk about feelings. You're just kinda like "k—what?" I had two female counselors after we realized that family counseling was not gonna work. And they were nice they helped with the stepping stones of being able to like admit when I need help. Cause I could not ask for help as a child ever. Admitting when I needed help, admitting when I was upset, admitting when like something made me uncomfortable. Cause it was very difficult to tell my parents when it happened to me. Especially after I was raped it was horrifying telling my mother like I 24:00couldn't, I didn't want to see the look of disgust on her face. Cause when I told her as a child she had this look on her face and it was, it was disgust. I thought it was directed at me, cause I was just a kid I didn't really realize that she was just horrified that she hadn't been able to prevent it. Um and so it was very difficult. After the two female counselors— I really just didn't trust them, no offense to my mom, but I was just like I don't trust women. I just don't. And I spent most of my time hanging out with guys, like I understood them better anyway, I still do. The female mind still boggles me I'm like "I don't get what's going on." Um, but finally I got this psychiatrist, Dr. Korgo I loved this man to death. He technically was prescribing me my medication while I was seeing the two counselors, well one and then the other and then him, but I told him when I— cause when I moved back to Canada that's when they were like "Oh, I need a new psychiatrist." I told them I'm not starting 25:00over with somebody else I was like "No." He was like "You should really see a female" I was like "No, I don't want to see a woman, I like you I'm gonna talk to you and if you try to send me somewhere else I won't go." [laughs] So he was just kinda like "Okay, fine." Um and this man— he's like an older Italian guy, from the Bronx like he is just hilarious. The reason why I love therapy is because of him; because he just helped me so much. And I think people have this stigma against therapy like its just this "How does that make you feel? Blahblahblahblahblah emotions emotions." Which yes, is part of it, but we talked about music. I would bring in music that we could listen to during the session. We talked about me not wearing so much black, because I used to wear all black all the time, I still love black, but rainbows are also 26:00fantastic. Um and he was just like "No, make your own clothes." And that's how I started getting into like costuming which now of course I'm a fanatic about. But the best thing ever is this one time I called myself a monster and he' goes "Why are you a monster?" I was like "I just, I just" and I was trying to explain it to him but of course, I had no reason cause I'm not a monster and he just looked at me and was like "Shut up. Just shut up." I was like— and it just hit me cause knowing my family, my family would say that sometimes. But when a professional is like "No. stop it, you're being dumb" I was like "Really?" and he was just like "What do you think?" He would tell me that and he'd be like "Would that make me a monster?" I'd be like "No" and he'd be like "Then how does that make you a monster?" I had no words. That was the moment when I was like life changing, I was like oh my gosh this makes so much sense. He's just fantastic, so. Therapy was just a lot of going to talk to him. He's, still Catholic, but he admits he's like, "The church totally screwed up right here, did you see this article? Like look what happened." I was like "Finally someone who understands." But at the same time he would be like "You should look into like different parishes or look into different priests, 27:00like there are places you can go where you feel better and more at home. It just depends where you are." And that was fantastic. I mean he talked to me as a human being. I mean he, of course I was his patient, but he treated me as an equal; he respected me. He respected my boundaries you know, listened. I think people don't realize that there are psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, whatever out there, who do that. So for me it was a wonderful experience, and I was very lucky because he saved my life more than one time. So yeah, therapy woo it's good.
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] So you mentioned that you didn't have a lot of exposureto LGBT community in high school, when did you start getting exposure to it?
OSHINSKI: Well in high school there was some. I was never allowed anything athome like if a girl kissed on TV in my mom's house she'd be like "Oh, that's disgusting." I was like "Totally, sure— no not at all." It didn't even 28:00phase me I wasn't like "Yeah that's hot" it was just kinda like "People are kissing, does it matter?" In high school there were, there was an Lgpt-- LGBT I can say letters-- group, but I never really joined it because I was afraid of disappointing my parents. Also I just really didn't like the people that were in it. A lot of them were really alternative, which I have no problem with, I love my chains and my tattoos and I used to have beautifully died hair [sighs] jobs why do you take it from me? Um but, they just weren't my type of people. They did a lot of drugs they had a lot of frivolous sex and at that point I was like "Eh," and it's not anything against the community cause there were a lot of people who weren't like that, but just the club we had. I realized there were a bunch of people who weren't in the club that were on the same page as me and were like "Nah, I get ya and I don't wanna join that club, but I am totally on par with you that I like the same gender and that gender and whatever else." So that was the biggest thing like I could have had exposure, but it wasn't the exposure I wanted. I knew it wasn't right. Um what did it for me was, [pause] 29:00okay so there's this stigma that girls don't watch porn. But I never understood that as a kid um it was porn I was like "Okay. Whatever." Oddly enough it doesn't really illicit arousal out of me because being pansexual I need an emotional connection with a person to have any type of attraction. Though that could just be me I'm not sure if other pansexuals are the same way. But it never did anything, but I'd watch it to like learn about sex. And so, because my parents were very like "No sex ed for you." And I was like "What?" so I'd watch it to learn. So one time I stumbled across like lesbian porn and I was like "Oh, okay I don't get why everyone thinks this is the greatest thing ever." Then I just looked at it and I was like— and I was looking at it and I watched them like kissing or something and I realized just that it didn't matter to me that they were girls. It wasn't more arousing or less arousing it just 30:00didn't phase me in anyway. It was like "They are human beings." And that was the first time that I realized that I need to look into this not caring about who I'm kissing. Because then I would think, "Well this girl and I get along really well I'd be okay with kissing her and I was like" Is that what a crush is? Is that, is that how this works?" it was very strange which is funny because three of my best friends I had massive crushes on and now we're just friends. Um [laughs] hilarious. It was porn that did it and like, my parents are gonna be like "Oh my gosh my daughter watched porn" and I'll be like "Guys, I am a human being I'm sorry to disappoint you but, eh." Yeah and I just realized that, and that's when is started looking into it like Google searches in secret at night cause I was like "I don't want them to see what I'm looking at." I would talk to my friends, or I'd try and talk to any of the gay community at our school at our high school and by that point I was like junior or senior. I still really just didn't like them they were not nice people the ones I met I was like "I don't like you." But I did have one friend who was bi and she was totally like "This is totally easy let me explain everything." It was fantastic and so most of my exposure was I would have a friend and I was like "Oh yeah that is my orientation I happen to like the same gender or both 31:00and whatever." I would just talk to them and be like "Explain this to me, tell me how this works, what do you meant about this, how does this make you feel?" I would just badger them with questions and they'd just be like "Really? You can't learn this on your own?' I was like "You don't understand. I have no on else to talk to about this." It was a little lonely, but really it was like just kinda like "Hey I got a friend I can talk to, this is fantastic. Lets be friends and talk about this." Like now I have this one friend, love them to death, they are non-binary and we just, we could talk for hours about it. Like "Oh my gosh you gotta understand this, and oh my gosh this feeling, and blahblahblah." And its just the best feeling in the world because it's someone who I've been friends with since high school and so we've been there through all the different stages and finally we're comfortable enough to be like "This is who I am and I'm not hiding it anymore." So yeah my exposure was just talking to 32:00people I was like "Oh wait, you like girls too? Tell me about it." I think it's funny cause people are like "If you watch T.V and people are kissing or you watch porn." I mean yes technically I saw two girls kiss and I was like "Wait, I can do that?" But it wasn't as if it influenced me; I mean I was already that way it was just— "Hey, I can do this I can be happy like this and it's okay." So yeah I just pestered everybody I could about questions.
MYKLEGARD: Has, have how you identified yourself, has it changed over time?Since like you first got that initial exposure to like now?
OSHINSKI: Definitely. When I was in high school, I assumed I was bisexual. WhenI got to college I started falling for this girl transitioning to a guy or she was going to half transition um, she wasn't gonna, she was gonna get the breast surgery so the top surgery, but not the bottom surgery. Wanted to stay female, 33:00but wanted to be more masculine. She was just fantastic, I just adored her. And I really liked her and I just realized, that to me it didn't matter what their body looked for in, like looked at. And I realized another time when I look back on one of my boyfriends in high school I was like you're not very attractive. Like, the stereotypical attractive and I looked at this and I've looked at most of the people I've dated and very few of them are like the conventional attractive, but to me they're beautiful. Like my partner right now, most gorgeous man I have ever seen in my life. I highly doubt that if I wasn't in love with him I would think that way, but that could also be because I'm just not attracted to people like that. But like it just, I don't know. I started out thinking I was bisexual and then I realized "Oh, I don't care about any of that." And then I realized people who are transitioning are people, people who are overweight, people who are you know really skinny, people who are tall, short, I don't care what ethnicity they are I don't care if they're deaf or crippled or whatever you wanna call it, it doesn't matter to me this person 34:00and I get along and can develop an emotional bond they are acceptable as a partner, and like that's all I need. The physical stuff can come after. Um, not to say that pansexuals don't have physical needs because we do. [laughs] Um but yeah, for me it was the moment that I started having a crush on the girl that was transitioning I was like "Oh wait a second, I'm not bi I'm more than that." And there are people who are technically pansexual who go by bisexual and I've met them and I was like "Okay, bi literally means two. Male, female. Pan is spectrum." I was like "Can you not see the difference?" and I think that's just me being an English major being like "Guys, words. Words are important." But, I don't know. But yeah as I, I think like two years ago I realized that I was non-binary. I thought— I called myself a human— I was like "I'm a human, that's what I am." And then I was like "Oh wait, non-binary gender fluid like these are 35:00things." Cause once again I just didn't really have much exposure. And the other thing is I just didn't really go looking for it. I didn't see the point in needing to be classified by a label. Like I call myself gay and someone's talking to me like "Oh yeah I'm so gay." Cause to me gay is any part of the homosexual spectrum, and that's just how I word it. So, I've never worried about it. And I was like "Wait, there's more to this. Its okay to be labeled because there are actual specific labels for what I am." And that was a moment of pure joy for me. I was like "Oh my gosh" and it was two years ago I was like "This is the best day ever." I literally was just dancing around my bedroom, I was alone, but I was dancing around my bedroom like this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. It was fantastic, and like joining Transpace here I— it was the greatest thing cause they're people that understand. I made this one friend who he— he is exactly like me only like inverse biological sex. 36:00Like we're just the same exact boat, well he's actually gay, but like actual intimate, whereas I'm everyone— but it's just hilariously wonderful. I think actually the best thing is one of my gay friends on Facebook he posted this thing about the different homosexualities and comes to like "Gay, I think boys are hot. Lesbian, I think girls are hot. Bisexual I think they're both hot. Asexual, what. And then it was like pansexual, everybody's hot what do I do?" and so I commented on it and I was like "Actually it's more like, 'Oh my gosh we get along I love you let's do stuff'" and then its like "Wait, you're three foot five and like just had a sex change? I don't care you're my soul mate!" And he laughed so hard and is like "This is why I love pansexuals." And I just— for me it doesn't register that you could discriminate against someone based on how they look or what their gender is and it took me a long time to realize that's a 37:00thing. Like even when I thought I was straight, when I thought I was bi, when I first realized I was pan I didn't realize that other people discriminate based on that. I thought it was just a joke and I was like "Wait, you actually do that? If someone's that short you won't date them? What? What, what?" like I couldn't get my mind around it. Like I was like "But they're nice. But they're wonderful. Like, what?" Like the friendzone thing, no I don't believe in that. I don't believe in that. First of all, anyone has a right to say "No I don't want to date you." Second of all, if someone's that fantastic and you can't see them as another person that's just, that's just how its gonna be. Thirdly if they're that fantastic and you just refuse to see them that way because you like leaning on them and having support, then you're the jerk. But yeah, so like for me I transitioned a lot through lot of different phases and I feel like I'm still not done. Um, as we discover more about the way the mind works about the way the body works the way identity works, it will fluctuate and will change and I'm okay with that. I've never really cared for hard labels, I'm a human being and when we find aliens, cause I'm such a space nerd, when we find aliens I do not care I'll be like "You're humanoid, you're alive, okay." [laughs] close enough like all good. Yeah, so I don't know I expect to continue changing and 38:00fluctuating in what I consider myself and how I see myself, I look forward to it because I think that'll just mean a deeper understanding of who I am. So.
MYKLEGARD: Gotcha. So how did you find out about Transpace and what have yourexperiences been while you've been in it?
OSHINSKI: Okay. I took a human sexuality course three semesters ago and myhealth was really bad so I was coming in and out of class very infrequently. And one of the days I was there was when we were having a student panel where you go up in front, you talk about your sexuality bladeeblahdeeblah, and they needed one more person, which ironically enough I was wearing my tie dye pants and tie dye beret and I was like "This is perfect." They were rainbow tie-dye too, so it was like spot on. And I was like "Oh yeah okay I'll just be the last person." And she was like "Are you sure?" Cause she knew I hadn't been there 39:00very often and I was like "No it's okay I'll do this I don't care." We were talking on the panel and it was great and there was this person and they were just fantastic. And we got along and we were just like "Oh yeah I totally agree with what they're saying." Its fantastic, and I think its because we were the only two trans people on the panel. Everyone else was on the homosexuality spectrum, which it's fine it's cool be you. But it was nice to have someone I was like "Oh my gosh, someone understands this is great." And then they decided like we were just hanging out after class we decided to be friends and like text occasionally and of course, I'm terrible at texting. Like I get sick or I get distracted and like nothing else exists and I'm like "Mmm, shiny object!" but like really ADD. But they texted me and that had been like what the, that had been a spring semester so over the summer we had gone back to our respective homes, come back to school and they let me know they were creating a club called Transpace. Because we had talked about how cool it would be if there was a club for us and they actually decided to do it and I was like "Wow, fantastic on you. 40:00I didn't even think to actually go ahead and do it." Like I don't know why that thought hadn't crossed my mind. And they are the founder of the group, Hayley, I'm not sure if they chose a different name, I call them Hayley. And was just like "Okay so we're gonna have our first meeting." And I was like "Awesome." And I got there— and okay when I get nervous you know how some people like visibly shake when they're nervous? I don't, I get like a sweat drip down my back and like my insides tremble like I can feel my organs trembling like that's what it feels like and it's the worst—cause I like look fine but inside I'm like "[whining sound] Electricity." [whispers] I was so nervous. I was so nervous. Cause I was like really excited, but I was like "What are they gonna think of me?" because you know like I haven't had this like horrible experience with the community, I haven't really been in the community, I've just kinda been doing my own thing. And I was so nervous. And I went there and it was just the best experience ever. We go around in a circle, we tell it was great because we got the little name tags that was like "Name. Preferred pronouns." And I was like "[in sing song voice] Yes!" Which, just in case it matters, I don't mind being a 41:00she because technically that is my biological sex and its just a hell of a lot easier to have people call me she. If I, if my boobs are bound and I'm dressed as a dude and I'm acting like a dude, he is nice, I don't really care either way. I'm not picky. But we got to pick preferred pronouns and I was like "Oh this is great. I'm so excited." And it was, it was just fantastic. And everyone was just so sweet and some of the stories were really sad and some of them were really inspiring, but we were just like laughing. [laughs] We kept trying to stay on topic with like the questions that Hayley wanted to address and we just kept— I admit that a lot of it was my fault because like I said, ADD and I go on tangents and I kept getting distracted and having the best time. And then we went out for like milkshakes afterward cause Deetz was open and we were like "Yes. Milkshakes. Always. Yes." It was fantastic. And I was still,the whole time, I was just so excited that like weird buzzing feeling and like the sweat and I was like "[whining noise]" and I apologized I was like "I'm sorry. I'm sorry guys that I'm like gross." We gave everybody hugs before we left, it was fantastic. It was just the best thing. And that was just the first meeting. And I kept going for the rest of the semester and everyone was fantastic and it was just the greatest thing. And I might have my times off it might be a different semester, I'm sorry I'm really bad with times.
MYKLEGARD: It's okay.
OSHINSKI: But after, by the end of the semester it was just, it was fantastic. Iloved everyone, I missed a couple things because of school but it was okay. And unfortunately last semester, last semester I started working at Buffalo Wild Wings— well yeah August, yes years, okay. So I didn't have time. Well I made a point to go, but I didn't go to very many meetings and this semester because I was doing "Mid Summer Night's Dream" and "Fool for Love" working on the costumes I had no time, I wasn't even working for those two months. So I had 42:00no time to go and it was really sad, but I could go on Facebook and we had our little Transpace group and I had my friends and we would talk it was fantastic. And I would recognize a couple people at work that were in the group and I'd just be like "Hi!" and it's always weird recognizing them outside the group cause you're like "Oh wait, do I refer to you by biological gender?" Like you're just kinda like, you have to pause for a moment and be like "Wait, how do you want to be referred to in public?" We had that conversation in the meetings like "How do I address you if I see you in public?" and I'm like "Mmm." It was fantastic and it was great and I really am excited because in the fall I'll actually have time to go to meetings again, thank God, and like hang out with everyone. But it's literally just like hanging out with your best friends, like yes we talk about some of the issues, we talk about things that happen in the news, there's a really great clinic in Roanoke now that helps with a lot of the transitioning surgeries and like procedures and hormone therapies and stuff, we talk about stuff like that and its fantastic. And it's so informative and it's nice to get people's views and see how people were raised and see how people interact with it. And it's just been eye opening for me but I think the best part is you're going somewhere and you're meeting people who are like you. I mean yes, we're all very different but they understand like "No, I understand that exact feeling. Like I've been there." And you're like "Wow, you understand." It's just, it's mind blowing because I feel like there are a lot of us out there, but we don't get together enough. We need to hang out we need to 43:00like have a giant party and be in like footy pajamas and eat popcorn and have the best hang out sleepover ever. But yeah, like that's what the whole, the club for me has just been like I would look forward to it every week when I could go, well we did it every other week then once a month and then twice a month and then, it varies. I would look forward to the meeting I'd be like counting down the days like "Oh my gosh, this is so exciting." I would make sure to get off work if I could it was, it was just great. And going there you're wonderfully supported. Everyone understands you, we literally went to the mall one day to go shopping. To be like hey, let's go shopping together because that way someone won't look at you strangely if you're shopping in the female section, but they can't tell that you're female. You know or you're shopping in the boy's section and like it was fantastic. And it was just so comfortable to go around with people and shop for things and not have to worry about if someone was staring at you, cause you had your friends around you. And it was fine, you didn't even think about the other people. I felt a little bad though cause a 44:00couple of the girls they wanted to go to like Charlotte Rousse and some of the other places, whereas I love Hot Topic. I'm like "Yeah, getting all my nerd t-shirts and my music stuff." Um and so— oh I'm sorry I got distracted with this stuff— but we still made it work and at the end we like met back up and ate pizza, had a slurpee thing and it was fun. Then we came back to campus and we've met for food on campus before like we've hung out it's literally like just having an awesome friend group that you just, you have designated days to hang out. So, it's been like the best experience; it is by far my favorite club. No offense to the knitting club, I do love them very much, but I think it's just the level of connection you have. And I cannot thank Hayley enough for putting forth the effort to make it because it's just the greatest thing that's ever happened. And I hope that it lasts for years and years and years, grows and expands 45:00because its fantastic and I just don't think there's enough attention to people like us out there that are like "We want friends too." [laughs]
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] When you got on campus, were you aware of like any otherorganizations? And were you involved, or did you think about getting involved in them?
OSHINSKI: I knew that the HokiePride was a group. I didn't think about gettinginvolved in it. My thing about sexuality, like who you're attracted to is, I don't care who you're attracted to. Everyone deserves the same rights in my mind. Well marriage I think is up to the point of the religion, but civil unions should have the exact same benefits as political marriages in my mind. But my biggest thing was I didn't care, I didn't need to be around people who cared 46:00about my sexuality or understood my sexuality. Like that wasn't something that mattered so much. I had friends who understood, friends who were like on the same page and I was like "Awesome, great." So it wasn't something I ever felt left out in that category. My other worry was that I was just really nervous I was like I don't wanna run down the street and scream "Hey guys I'm pansexual" Like, that's my business and between me and my partner and my friends and I will make jokes and like I don't mind explaining it to people if they're curious I don't mind mentioning it, but I'm not gonna rub it in someone's face and be like "Respect me because I'm different." No I just, I've never been comfortable with that. And I was just worried that that's what it would be. So honestly it was just a lot of trepidation about if I go there is that what it's gonna be, are they gonna get made at me because I'm not active enough? Are they gonna be upset because I don't understand all the things or because I don't agree with them on a lot? I don't know, so that was the biggest thing. So I knew it was, I knew that existed I still don't know about any other groups because honestly I'm really happy with Transpace. And like this is, this is where it's at. But I just, I have no desire to really go. No offense to them, I'm sure they're wonderful people. I think the other thing is just that they're probably a very large group and I like that Transpace is like the most people we'll have in a room at a time is like 11. And it's nice, you can talk to everybody, you can see everybody, and it's just more intimate. And I have no problem with there being tons more people, but it was nice to break into a group that was starting small. It was very unnerving to think about trying to go to HokiePride cause my friends were like "Come to HokiePride with me!" and I was like "No. No. Can't do that social anxiety." Like I'm a very outgoing person, but when I get to a room of a bunch of people I don't know, I can clam up as good as any introvert. Like, so fast. So that was the only group I knew about and like I see their signs whenever I go into Squires you know they used to have like a window display, and I was like "Way to go guys!" But I, I don't know. And like if I was going to a Pride Parade, that'd be fine cause that's like a parade for your rights that's great. But I'm not, I've never wanted to be one of those people that like constantly is like "You need to respect my choices, and blablabla." Like if someone disagrees, like my mom does not agree with my life choices my father doesn't either. They do not like them, they don't think it's great. Will they treat me any less for it? No. They're like, "You're our daughter, we love you." I'm like, "Cool." And that's what I think that's all that matters. If someones gonna treat me differently or treat me degradingly because of the gender I'm attracted to or how I find, like my gender or whatever you know, that's their problem not mine. And I will simply have nothing to do with them, and I think that's the best way to treat them. Is if they don't wanna have anything to with you, then like fine [noises] fine go away, you are not worth my time. And that's how I have always handled it. If someone has a problem with my sexuality and they can't deal with that, then I will just step back and be like "Fine. We don't have to talk, we don't have to be friends. We can just pass each other in the hallway and not say anything." Because I'm gonna respect their views. If I want someone to respect mine I have to respect theirs. And I think that that's something that I've noticed a lot of pride groups forget. At least the ones that 47:00I've looked into. Is that, yes being gay is fantastic go good for you we deserve to have rights. And yes, there's nothing wrong with being straight. There's nothing wrong with not liking homosexuality. Not at all. I don't like the color pink, woop-dee-frickin-do like there's nothing wrong with it. I'm not gonna stop my niece from wearing crazy pink things— like that girl has so much pink stuff oh my gosh. And that's fine. And like whenever she sees something she'll buy it and be like, "But it's pink, you won't like it." And I'm like "Baby if you get it for me, I'll wear it forever." I don't care. And that's what I think we need to do. If you're gonna treat someone like nicely, just treat them nicely. And if they don't agree with your life choices, fine. Okay. Sad and difficult, yes, but it's not the end of the world. And that was my biggest thing was I don't want to be part of a group that has been tied to you know such intolerance. Because how can you fight intolerance if you're acting the same way? You know? That was my biggest thing about it. Whereas Transpace, we tend to be like "It really bothers me when people don't 48:00understand, blablabla." Yes we complain, but at the same time we're like "You know if they don't like it, fine I just won't talk to them." Go away, not gonna waste my time. I think that's why I like it more, because they understand I'm not gonna put myself in a situation where people are treating me badly.
MYKLEGARD: You said earlier that you've always kind of felt like you can bewhoever you are, have you felt that way throughout your entire life?
OSHINSKI: Definitely. The one thing [laughs] my parents, though they had a niceprotection bubble, the one thing they always stressed was that we could do whatever we wanted and that it didn't matter how hard we had to try it didn't matter how easy it was if we wanted to do it we should strive. And they were always fully supportive. My brother went to school for psychology he actually came here, my brother Stefan, and got a major in psychology but he was like "I really don't like psychology. I'm gonna finish it because I started this degree, but I'm gonna get a minor in creative writing because I love that more." He graduates, he doesn't want to be a psychiatrist he tells them and they're just like "Oh, okay." And they're kinda like 'Why didn't you jut switch majors?" and he's like "I didn't realize I could still go to college." And they're like "If 49:00you wanted to change majors, that's fine. Like you can change majors." So when I had no idea what I wanted to do in life and was just going to community college like "Doodoodoodadoo taking classes" my parents were like, "Oh you're taking anatomy that's awesome! Oh you're taking photography, cool!" They were just like, "What do you want to do with your life?" And they're, they're, only stipulation was, once you decide go for it full force. Don't take no for an answer, keep fighting. My parents know that I want to be an author, they know that I want to be a teacher. And when I talk to them about "Oh this class is really getting me down." My mom just goes, "Think about the end goal. Think about what you're aiming for." And that just always helps me get through it. Because they've always supported that. And that just seeped into my everyday life. I was like "Oh, if I want to wear rainbows, that's fine. If I want to wear mesh and chains, that's cool too." Though my mom had a bit of a tough time adjusting to that [laughs]
OSHINSKI: My mom had a very difficult time when I started wearingthe goth clothes and painting my nails black and wearing chains and mesh and like baggy pants. It was very difficult and the one day she realized that— when she finally realized that I wasn't drinking, I wasn't doing drugs, I wasn't being a sex fiend, and I wasn't like worshiping Satan you know like "Woo devil!" When she finally realized, "No mom, I am still your daughter. Nothing really has changed I like these clothes, they're fun." She was like "Oh!" and then she realized, she looked at me and she goes "You actually look really pretty today." And I looked down and I was wearing like stockings with like this goth skirt with like mesh and bows on it and this like corset top and I looked at her and I was like "Thanks?" I was really confused. And then, then it just happened for two years she'd be like "Oh you look so pretty today." While I was wearing something that was like strange or weird. Totally boosted my ego and I was like "Yeah, I needed that." But she looked at me and she was like "I realized, they're just clothes. And you look happy when you wear them, and that 50:00makes you beautiful." I was like "Oh, mommy so moving!" But yeah that just seeped into everything, that they were always like "If that's your goal, go for it. If that's what you really want, we'll support you." My brother Stefan really wants to design video games, and so when he got out of college and they're like "Oh, well, we'll support you go try to get into a video game school." He's like "What?" and they're like "Go." And he's like "Okay." And when my brother Chris had his daughter, they were like "Oh, well this is going to throw a wrench into a few things. Okay." And they're like "Oh you're still going to school. That's fine. Okay keep going for it. If you wanna travel around the world and do who knows what, then cool. Do that, just make sure your kids safe." [laughs] But they've always supported us, the entire time. When I told my parents I might want to go into theatre my mom was like— she was nervous about it at first because theatre can be very difficult to make a living in, especially if you're just costuming cause I love costuming. She was really worried about it and I said, "Theatre as much as I want a living, I am too rational minded I need to have a job that is steady so teaching is the way to go. I also just love it, but it's 51:00a passion and I want you to know that I will pursue it later." And she was like "If you want to do that more than English, do that." And I was really surprised because that was like last year still, I was almost done with English and she was like "It'd be better if you just finished with English you know in my mind, but if you realize it's not what you want to do." And I was just blown away I was like "Really at this point you're still supporting me? Like oh my gosh." And yeah so when I realized "Hey, I want to be a boy today." I was like "Okay, I'll be a boy today. Why not?" And I, yeah. Just fully supported and I can't, I can't stop thinking about how wonderful my parents were. We disagreed on so many things, you know they were super over protective blablabla, but in the end, they loved me. They've always supported me, even when they disagree with me. They're there for me, and that just made me super confident in being whoever I want. Not to say I don't get self conscious, because dear god I do, but yeah just knowing that my parents, if no one else, my parents will be there is like I'll do whatever. It's just kinda worked for me.
MYKLEGARD: You say you're self conscious, would you say that being in52:00Blacksburg, do you feel like it's different than other places you've lived in terms of how comfortable you feel like being in public?
OSHINSKI: Yes. In Blacksburg I'm significantly more comfortable. If I go aroundas a boy, because it's a college campus it's a college town like when I had blue hair I had this woman, who was probably in her fifties or sixties was like "Oh your hair is so bright and blue I love it" You know? And I'd be like "Oh, thank you!" My parents were convinced they're like "Oh super conservative town, everything's gonna be horrible when you get there." I was like, "It's a college town. They understand that there are crazy people here." Um, but I love it. And because I know there are people on campus that get me, I don't care if some of 53:00the people that don't get me stare at me like "Is that a guy or a girl?" I'll be like "Neh" Like that doesn't bother me; I don't care if they're like "Why is she wearing rainbow pants?" And I'll be like "Because I'm awesome." It's a lot easier here. In Northern Virginia, Fairfax, where my parents live, it's harder. I'm there with my parents and they don't really understand the non-binary thing they're like "So you're a tomboy?" and I'm like "Okay." At this point I'm like I'll just, whatever. Just retire and don't worry about it. Cause its not really, I know it's not going to change how they think of me they're still gonna love me. So at this point it's not a pressing matter to tell you. If I don't tell you you'll be like "Oh why didn't you tell me?" and I'll be like "I didn't think it was that mattersome. You're gonna love me anyway." They'll be like "Oh, okay." But it's still harder, because trying to walk around there's also just not much to do in Northern Virginia, not that I like to do, like there's like bars, I'm not a drinker, I also just don't like bars, and just there's nothing I really do there's nowhere to really go. And if I go out as a guy like there's tons of chances of running into people from, that I knew form like high school or middle school or elementary school and I don't really care if they see me, but its just slightly more nerve wracking. Cause you're like, I know these people and they're gonna judge me. And I'm not saying that judgment 54:00is bad, it's a safety thing like literally your body makes judgments to determine how to respond to a situation like that's fine. But dealing with the looks is, it gets old real fast. [laughs] So when you're on a campus, and you're like "This person's staring at me like I'm crazy, and this person's staring at me like I'm crazy, they get it there we go." It's more often that you'll find someone who gets it. As a kid, growing up in Northern Virginia was also very difficult because if I wanted to be weird they didn't get it if I wanted to wear baggy t-shirts and boy pants like they didn't get it. And I was like a kid and I didn't get it either, but they were just not nice. And I think that's like my biggest fear about it, because when I was a kid and I was just like a tomboy and didn't realize it was anything else, they were not nice about it. Girls were supposed to be pretty if they were tough. And I was like, and even the Megan's there were like three Megan's in my class one year and they were all athletes like one played soccer, one played softball, one played volleyball and I was like [scoff] and they were super athletic and strong and tomboyish but girl, they wore makeup every single day and like super cute jeans and like baby-doll tops and I was like "How is that conducive to playing any kind of sport? Like you cannot run it that" Like what, I just never understood it. I think that was the biggest thing was I was just so, I'm just so used to the negative association I guess that it's harder there. Whereas here, it's only ever been positive. So that's probably the biggest difference. I don't think there's actually any difference it's all in my head.
MYKLEGARD: You kinda touched on this a little bit, but how do you feel in termsof your involvement with social or political movements how do you feel you've dealt with it in the past and now and in the future how do you think you'll deal with it?
OSHINSKI: In the past I avoided it completely. I tried never to talk aboutpolitical things ever because being pro life amongst my friends, especially with one of the guys I was dating at the time— he was actually Satanic which was hilarious. [laughs] He was like all about abortion and everything else he would make horrible jokes about it and I was just like, I would never talk about my political views. I would never talk about my religion. I was just very silent about it. I hated it, because I'm very outspoken. If I have an opinion I will state it. I will try to be polite about it, but I will state it. I look back at that and it makes me feel really sad. I'm just like that's lonely, I don't ever wanna do that. And so now, I'm very clear with people I'm like "This is how I feel." I have friends who are pro abortion and I live with them and I'm like "I will never be pro abortion I am pro life 100% always will be." And then we go "Okay." And we will state our sides and we can have like an intelligent discussion and it might also be age is a part of it cause we're like 24 now, so we're pretty old. And you know, it might be some maturity but we've also just realized with people I'm friends with is that it doesn't matter, I don't care if they're pro abortion I don't agree with that choice I would never do it, cool, they're not me. And that's what I want in my life I want to be able to take that to a level beyond just my friends. My family and I, we're still working on it cause we're really opinionated people like we are super opinionated people, my parents are very conservative it's the funniest thing going home for like holidays, oh my gosh, cause all my brothers and I are like really liberal and we're just like "Hmm, how did this happen?" But I want to be able to have that not just with my family, my friends, with other people I wanna be able to have a conversation with like a stranger you know or like a boss on an interview and be like "Well, this is my political views. I do not expect your company to hold true to my political views, I am not your company your company is not me." And I wanna be able to take that into my life, and be " Hey, like these are my views I can respect that you don't agree with them. I can respect that yours are different. I can respect that they're the same. Why does it matter?" If we can work together, if we can be polite to each other, that's 55:00what matters. You know, so we may not vote for the same person you may want different rights than I want but that doesn't change that in the end we are people and we should be treated with respect and we should love each other. Because arguing over politics is just gonna cause more problems whereas discussing it and being like "Hey, I'm not gonna change your mind but let me help you understand why I think this." Like I totally understand why my friends are pro abortion, I totally understand why my parents are against gay marriage like I was like "Okay, I see the logic" and even if I don't see the logic I'm like "K, you have an opinion." And that's just something I want to stay the same. I never want to become lax again, where I just hold my tongue. Well I mean, there's always a time for holding your tongue, but I want to be able to be open for the rest of my life and to be able to calmly state "Okay, I understand where you're coming from I don't agree. But I'm glad that you have your own opinion." I just want that to be— I hope that someday everyone can come to that conclusion. [laughs] fingers crossed.
MYKLEGARD: Gotcha. Okay I only have a couple more questions left. So how longhave you been at Tech exactly?
OSHINSKI: This was my second year.
MYKLEGARD: You're second year.
MYKLEGARD: Okay. And you were at community college beforehand?56:00
OSHINSKI: Yes I went to Northern Virginia community college.
MYKLEGARD: Have you always known what you wanted to do when you came intocollege? You said you were struggling a little bit, but when did you like finally decide?
OSHINSKI: I finally decided— I think I always knew I was just afraid of itmaybe. Cause being a teacher, you're not gonna make money you're not gonna get recognition, no one's gonna respect you. Well, maybe when they're like thirty and they're like "Thank gosh that third grade teacher was fantastic." It's not gonna happen for a really long time. And I was just, I was worried that it wouldn't be the right career. I was like, "Can I handle that stress? Can I handle not having like a very large paycheck? How would I raise I family on 57:00that? How would I do the things I love?" Cause I'll be honest, cosplaying is one of my favorite hobbies, money: sink. Like you just, all your money just gone. Like gone, like in five seconds. You're like "Dangit." And you only have half the costume and you're like "No." It's, it's intense. And I was like "How can I keep living my life and being happy if I don't make enough money?" But I want to do something I love. Writing, my mom says, she told me "You've been writing before you could talk." And I looked at her and I'm like "That makes no sense whatsoever." Apparently I would just come up with stories like even when I couldn't talk I would like stand up in my crib and like look in the corner and like make baby noises and she would just come into the room and like stare at me staring at the corner of the wall and you know when I was older I would tell her these fantastic stories and she'd be like, "Where did you hear this?" and I'd be like "No, this is in my head!" and she'd be like, "What?" So I've always known I wanted to be a writer. And that's not gonna be something that's really job security's not strong in being like an author for novels and like fiction like eh, maybe if I'm like a best selling author, probably won't happen but striving. But being a teacher, I had this teacher my sophomore year of high school, Mr. Friedman he actually went to Virginia Tech woo Hokies! And that was why I decided to come to Virginia Tech cause he got his teaching degree here, and he was just the most inspiring teacher I've ever had. And it wasn't that he really did anything super out there, he wasn't like teachers you see in the movies that like change your life, no no. He literally just, the way he taught us, I remembered things. We learned. And there was a kid, cause it was an honors English class, there was a kid who should not have been in honors English but was trying. I think his parents forced him to. And Mr. Friedman took the time to help this kid, knowing that he shouldn't be in this class, knowing that he was struggling, but understanding the pressure of his parents. And being like, I'll help you through this. He didn't go easy on him he didn't grade him any differently, but he helped him. And some of his methods were just genius. You think, "Ah that's just busy work" and then you're like "No, that's actually intelligent it makes us look at the texts differently." Like we had to journal about it and write questions and be like, "I didn't know what this word meant." And it was nice because also, no one felt intelligent it wasn't "I'm superior 58:00intelligent." But no one felt stupid. Cause literally no one else in the class read your journal, it was just him. And I'd be like 'I totally did know what this word meant even though I should have learned it in like fifth grade." I was like "I had to look this up." Or I kept forgetting how to spell this, and now I finally know how to spell it. It was just inspiring because it was like "Wow, you're okay with me being average and it's okay that I don't know things and you're gonna teach me." And he was just so personable, so friendly and he treated us like humans. And like when we, when he came into class he was like "This is how it's going to be, I'll respect you if you respect me. He's like cursing is acceptable, as long as you're not cursing angrily at each other. As long as it doesn't get like super obscene." He was like "Nothing is really off topic, off limits. As long as it's appropriate for school. Don't be offensive." And he was like "Don't attack other people. You can always say your opinion, don't attack people." And that's like how I wanted to live my life anyway and I was like "Gosh, you understand Friedman you're the best." And I, I just loved that teacher so much. He's just fantastic. And that's when I finally realized 59:00that I wanted to be a teacher. But like I said, the money thing and the having no appreciation like I really was afraid. So I tried nursing, I tried photography, I tried I don't even remember everything anymore it was a lot. And I just finally was like "You know what? No. I'm just going to pursue English. And I will deal with the not being recognized and the not having super amounts of money when the time comes." Like I can live on a teacher's salary, it's not great you know the benefits are relatively crummy, but I can survive. People have been doing it for decades. And it's what I wanna do so I might as well do it. So yeah when I got to tech I knew immediately, that's why I finally like I applied. I was like 'Well, now I know what I'm doing I have my associate degree, might as well go to college, well university." But yeah so ever since I've been here I've known what I want to do. And I've just got one year left, which is terrifying but also exciting. I've taken my time, I uh, I'm really dyslexic which is hilarious that I'm going into English cause I'm like super dyslexic so I can only take like four English classes at a time because I literally cannot read things fast enough and process it, so it's taken me a 60:00little longer but I'm really excited. Really nervous, but really excited because I'm like finally— I'm gonna do something. And I know what I wanna do and I'm like set on it and I'm okay with it. Cause there's always that point when you're a kid you're like, "Is that what I wanna do? Do I really wanna do it?" And I'm just like "Yeah, yeah no it is. This is where I am." So, yeah.
MYKLEGARD: So, final question, I'm lying I think I have two more.
OSHINSKI: [laughs] That's fine.
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] So is there anything you would like potential historians orlike young members of the LGBT community to know? Like would you have any words of advice? Especially kids coming to Tech.
OSHINSKI: People always tell you to be yourself, to be true to yourself, don'tcare about what other people think. That's bullshit. What people think will always affect you, it will affect your life because we live in a world where 61:00what someone thinks will change like if a teacher thinks you have a bad attitude they may not grade you well, if you know someone at a restaurant that's like serving you thinks that you're racist or you're shirt is too plungy "Oh, that girls a whore," or whatever I don't care there will always be judgment. You need to face it with confidence, not egotistical confidence but with the confidence to say, "This is who I am, I'm sorry that I've bothered you, no I will not change how I am.'' If you are within the parameters of "I'm following the law, I have not done anything rude or horrible" you know there's nothing they can, there's nothing they say should be held. And you always, always, always remember the criticism you'll always remember the bad things, and that's fine. Remember them, and everyday you remember it be like "Okay. Let me step over that one and get past one day at a time." Cause it's gonna take time. So yes, be yourself. 62:00But don't rub it in peoples' faces. Don't try and force other people to accept you, cause there will always be people who don't. And accept them, that's what we need to do. We need to accept others after you accept yourself. I think that's the most important. Also, there are people out there who love people like us. Just saying, my partner: best guy in the world. He would love me if I was a dude and that's saying something because he's straight. So, booyah. They do exist, hard to find, but they exist.
MYKLEGARD: Alright, is there anything that you thought that I would ask and I didn't?
OSHINSKI: Well I don't really have a filter so I was assuming there would bequestions about whether I wanted to undergo surgery, questions about what my sex life was like, partners, how I viewed the like people who are straight I guess, cause people are always like "Well what about straight people?" And I'm always like "They're humans too." I don't know I just assumed I guess there'd be more like of the risque questions instead of the actual, "Hey how's your life and what does this mean?" So I'm glad that some of the questions were like "Hey, explain this to me." I was like "Oh, that's a good question." So yeah I was just a little surprised I don't really care either way but it's kinda nice to not be like "Oh, you're gay. Tell me all about your sex life."
MYKLEGARD: [laughs] Okay. Is there anything else you want to add?
OSHINSKI: I hope this helps.
MYKLEGARD: Yeah! Alright, thank you very much!
OSHINSKI: Yeah, no problem.